Acute heart failure (AHF) is a life-threatening condition requiring immediate treatment. The initial therapy should take into account the clinical presentation, pathophysiology at play, precipitating factors and underlying cardiac pathology. Particular attention should be given to polymorbidity and the avoidance of potential iatrogenic harm. Patient preferences and ethical issues should be integrated into the treatment plan at an early stage. The average survival of AHF patients is 2 years and the most vulnerable period is the 3-month time window directly after discharge. Reducing both persistent subclinical congestion and underutilisation of disease-modifying heart failure therapies as well as ensuring optimal transitions of care after hospital discharge are essential in improving outcomes for AHF patients.